A21 Wellness Dispensary and Phula Dispensary opened the 52nd and 53rd NJ adult use cannabis dispensaries, while Garden State Botanicals opened the 47th medical dispensary.
A21 Wellness Dispensary Opens in Scotch Plains
The A21 Wellness Dispensary celebrated its Grand Opening last Friday in Scotch Plains in Union County.
“I’m excited for what the future holds. So here we go,” owner and CEO Pravin Asokan declared as he cut the ribbon. “Thank you coming and supporting us. Thank you guys so much.”
“It truly means a lot to see a lot of faces, familiar faces for maybe a couple years now,” he added. “I’m just excited to be part of the community, of the business community officially now.”
“We want to welcome you to Scotch Plains. We wish you the best,” Scotch Plains Township Manager and Union County Commissioner Alexander Mirabella declared.
He noted that Senate President and cannabis sponsor Nick Scutari (D-Union) represents the area.
“He had the idea 5 or 6 years ago of legalizing cannabis. People kind of joked at the time. But here we are,” Mirabella noted. “I’m a customer myself so I appreciate this. So good luck.”
They held a block party celebration that was open to all on Saturday.
A21 Wellness Dispensary is a microbusiness with a lot of land. But since it is a small microbusiness, few are allowed on the dispensary floor at the same time.
“We are thrilled to celebrate with the community and invite everyone to check out our educational dispensary experience. A21 Wellness Dispensary will continue to be committed to helping our customers shop for cannabis in a way that will support a healthy lifestyle and overall well-being,” said Asokan.
Smart Technology Allows Smelling Legal NJ Cannabis
An A21 Wellness Dispensary spokesperson claimed they are the first on the East Coast to utilize smart-shopping technology developed by the Peak Beyond.
The flower on display can be picked up and closely examined. The display jars have magnifying glasses to get a better look and ventilation to allow the customer to smell the strain to help them make the best selection.
A lot of the effects of cannabis come from the aroma of terpenes. Its freshness can be gauged by smell. Potent cannabis also smells better than weak cannabis.
Many underground legacy operators allow you to smell their cannabis to entice you to purchase it.
In addition, cartridge, edible, pre-roll, and concentrate packaging on display can be placed on a platform that will pull up full details about the product on an interactive touchscreen. Consumers can also view terpene profiles and THC/CBD content. They can sort products by effect to make finding what they’re looking for easier. Additionally, “cannabis experience specialists” (budtenders) offer to assist shoppers who would like help making informed purchase decisions.
NJ Adult Use Cannabis Dispensary Owner Background
Asokan was born and raised in the Midwest and lived in the Chicago suburbs in Oakbrook before moving to New Jersey in 2018. He now lives in Westfield in Union County.
Asokan explained he worked in finance while living in the Chicago area. He also sold life insurance for Primerica.
“I’ve been a user and consumer for almost a decade, mostly because of sports injuries,” Asokan explained.
Dentist Dr. Steve Albert of Franklin Lakes is the minority owner. AP explained his brother-in-law grew up with him, and they have been close for about 10 years.
Once the laws in New Jersey started to change, Asokan and Albert worked to ensure A21 Wellness was positioned to enter the New Jersey adult-use cannabis market early.
“A lot of life is opportunity and timing and taking a chance,” Asokan noted.
He said that even while he had a finance background, raising capital was challenging.
“I sympathize with a lot of the other owners specifically retailers, because we have challenges,” Asokan noted.
He explained he talked to a lot of friends in the industry before finding someone willing to help.
“It’s still cannabis. There’s a lot of hesitancy with finance coming into cannabis with banking and other things. People are interested in somehow investing in this world,” Asokan explained.
Scotch Plains Becomes Cannabis Hub
Scotch Plains is among the few towns in New Jersey allowing cannabis consumption lounges. They are allowing about seven NJ adult use cannabis dispensaries. Interestingly, there will be two dispensaries on the same highway close by.
Distance between NJ adult use cannabis dispensaries has been controversial elsewhere.
“Let people sort it out. Let the survival of the fittest competition work. We don’t limit the amount of barbershops or nail salons. Why should we limit the number of cannabis dispensaries?” Mirabella asked. “Let them up their game.”
He noted they might have up to seven dispensaries.
“This could be the pot capital of Union County,” Mirabella joked.
He explained the western conservative suburbs of Union County have not allowed dispensaries, which will likely benefit dispensaries in Scotch Plains.
Nearby Plainfield is also allowing seven NJ adult use cannabis dispensaries.
Phula Dispensary Opens in Mount Holly
The Phula dispensary opened softly in Mount Holly in Burlington County. They are holding a Grand Opening ribbon ceremony on October 21st. It’s at 60-62 High St in Mount Holly.
According to their website, “Phula comes from the word, flower, in the Gujarati, Indian language. Phula was started as a labor of love between a group of family and friends. A proud MWBE certified business (Minority/Women-Owned Business Enterprise), We are a fully independent non-MSO backed cannabis dispensary.”
On their Facebook page, they say South Jersey natives own it.
They got their conditional last September from the NJ-CRC. Phula Dispensary got its conversion to an annual New Jersey adult use cannabis dispensary license in July.
Mount Holly is allowing a few dispensaries, which gives them competition. It is an Impact Zone.
Garden State Botanicals Opens Medical Dispensary in North Brunswick
Garden State Botanicals, a woman-owned NJ medical cannabis dispensary, opened in North Brunswick in Middlesex County.
What was once a Halal restaurant is now North Brunswick Township’s first cannabis dispensary. It is located at 1345 Rout 1 South in North Oaks Plaza. Garden State Botanicals transformed the 2,400-square-foot space into a dispensary.
The dispensary had its soft opening on September 3rd.
While they are working toward branching out into the adult-use industry, they say they want to emphasize that medicinal cannabis will continue to take precedence. Their goal is to help patients and recreational customers alike shop quickly and guide them toward the right products for their needs.
“We want to provide the utmost medical care to our patients,” said James Manise, Garden State Botanicals Assistant General Manager. “So often, I’ve felt that medicinal patients are slighted once dispensaries make the transition to recreational. While we are working towards expansion, we will continue to prioritize our patients.”
NJ Medical Cannabis Dispensary Origins
The strong emphasis on alternative medical care is rooted in the dispensary’s personal history.
Owner Patricia Nasshorn’s husband lost his battle with brain cancer in 2014. Afterward, she began researching the potential benefits of medical cannabis for cancer patients and those living with other conditions and illnesses.
Nasshorn obtained her dispensary permit for Garden State Botanicals, LLC, during the 2019-2021 medical cannabis round.
Garden State Botanicals General Manager Samantha Quinlan says that each employee has their own personal history with medicinal cannabis.
“Before joining the cannabis industry, I was a medical patient using cannabis to treat chronic migraines,” she explained. “I want to ensure we offer the best care and compassion.”
Once inside, customers will notice what they call “a minimalistic yet welcoming style that is not commonly seen in other dispensaries.”
“We didn’t want to fill the dispensary with fancy bells and whistles and then be unable to supply the community with the medicine they need,” Manise said. “Our hope is that when patients stop in, they’ll see that we are the bells and whistles.”
Large potted plants fill the space as a nod to the botanical portion of their name.
The Garden State Botanicals dispensary aims for a comfortable feel that isn’t overwhelming to customers or overly sterile to patients looking for an alternative to their previous medical experiences.
NJ Medical Cannabis Dispensary Ownership Background
Unfortunately, her husband passed away from cancer in 2014. It led her to research alternative treatment methods, including medical cannabis, for cancer patients and those dealing with other debilitating conditions.
She had initially planned on obtaining a vertical permit in Pennsylvania to produce and dispense medical cannabis. But with the high competition in Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis market, she became an advisor to companies that received first-round permits.
Competition scares away many.
Since Nasshorn is also a New Jersey homeowner, she entered the 2019-2021 Medical cannabis dispensary license lottery with her firm, Garden State Botanicals, LLC. They initially sought to be based in Freehold Boro in Monmouth County.
While Nasshorn owns Garden State Botanicals, she is still involved in the healthcare industry. Thus, much of the financing, regulatory processes, and management is handled by Tom Murzenski, the Vice President of Operations.
He is also involved in a cannabis staffing company called Ready Set Grow as Chief Technologist.
According to North Brunswick records, Keith Morgan is the COO. He has a background in the cannabis industry in Pennsylvania. Morgan was involved in another company that failed to get a license in New Jersey in the 2019-2021 medical cannabis license round.